BTW I said the same thing here many years ago
Iran’s missile program making steady progress
An interview with Uzi Rubin
September 17, 2009
Mr. Uzi Rubin, an Israeli engineer who formerly ran Israel’s “Arrow” program for missile defense, gives high marks to Iran’s recent success in making long-range missiles, and predicts that Iran would use these missiles in saturation attacks with high explosives in time of war.
In a recent interview with Iran Watch, Mr. Rubin emphasized that Iran successfully developed the design for both its solid-fuel ballistic missile and its liquid-fuel space launcher after only a few test flights, showing that the Iran's missile industry is capable of recovering from test failures in relatively short time
Mr. Rubin believes Iran largely has the capability to build longer range missiles. He predicts that Iran will focus increasingly on solid fuel technology, which is easier to scale up in order to reach longer ranges. However, for political reasons, Iran is playing down this capability for fear of alienating Europe and Russia. With a range of 2,000 km, Iran’s two-stage, solid fuel Sejil [and variants] can already reach all mid eastern targets from eastern Iran.
The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Iran Watch (IW): What do you think about Iran’s space program, and the recent rocket tests?
Uzi Rubin (UR): I was impressed by the space launcher, especially its design. The first stage is a souped-up Shahab 3. The second stage is liquid fuel, but it's storable liquid fuel. This is one step beyond basic, non-storable liquid fuel like what’s used in Scuds. And it’s not only storable, it’s also hypergolic. That means you don't have to light the propellant, you just pump it into the motor and it spontaneously ignites. Iran managed to design a very elegant second stage – and also very light. The overwhelming majority of countries starting out with space launch technology started with three stages. Why? Because it's easier to reach orbital velocity with three stages than with two stages. Doing it with only two stages places very stringent requirements on the second stage. But Iran did it. Everyone was surprised. This is something we didn’t expect. I'd say it was an audacious achievement for a starting country.
IW: Were you surprised that Iran had mastered staging? Staging is not easy.
UR: Well, staging is challenging, but I'm not surprised. When Iran announced its space program back in 1998, this obviously meant they were going to rely on staging. So I wasn’t surprised that they did it. Staging is key to a space program. I was surprised that it worked so well the first time.
I was also surprised that Iran progressed so quickly. In February 2008, Iran fired a missile it called Kavoshgar, which was a Shahab-3, probably with a slightly stronger motor and painted in blue and white because it was flown by the space agency, not by the military. It had a typical triconic front end – what’s called the baby bottle front end – but with some changes. This test flight showed all the signs of failure. I tracked the video frame by frame. You could see pieces falling off while it was taking off, and then the whole thing exploded violently. That was the first launch. Iran claimed the test was successful, but we saw it as a dismal failure. Six months later, in August, Iran fired its first space launcher [Safir]. No pieces fell off. That indicates ample telemetry data from the failed test, which allowed Iranian engineers to figure out what went wrong in February. They than displayed good engineering: they fixed the problem. Finally, the short recovery time – only six months – indicates vigorous program management. While Iran's regime is radical and belligerent, and the success of its endeavors is bad news for the Middle East and the international community – as an engineer, I take my hat off.
But the August test was still a failure. Six months after that, in February 2009, the rocket worked. Within one year Iran had moved from a failed design to a successful one and launched a satellite into good, stable orbit. Again, this progress is a sign of good system engineering and good program management. Both are crucial. Not the technology. You can acquire technology. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTRC) appears to be dysfunctional as far as Iran is concerned. They seem be able to buy anything from anywhere. Perhaps not from the United States, and there may be some difficulties in Europe. But they apparently have other venues for acquisition of missile related materials and components. .
IW: Is this space launcher an indigenous design?
UR: I am not sure. But look, even if somebody designed it for Iran, if Iran had access to this design, then it's like having the design capability at home. The legacy for the overall design is Soviet. But when I say Soviet, it do